How to make an awesome small business website with WordPress

Why WordPress.com?

WordPress sites look good and are easy to set up and maintain. With WordPress I can choose my own domain name and pick a design to work with, all for a minimal cost ($0-$99).

To create a site  for my small business, I chose WordPress.com (open source software and hosting) over free blogging software from WordPress.org because:

  • My focus is on writing and editing, not design.Wordpress Schwag
  • WordPress.com is virtually maintenance free. I don’t want the work of hosting and maintaining a site.
  • If I want to post ads or access more plugins later, I can use this how-to guide for moving sites from WordPress.com to WordPress.org software.
  • My site needs are not complex. Creating a customized site using  WordPress.org or other design software might make sense if I wanted to do much more than share written content. For more pros and cons check out WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.

Creating my WordPress Site

To create my site, I sign up at WordPress.com. Rather than opt for the free domain, I select my own domain name and mapping for $18 per year.

When signing up, I need to choose (or forego) individual upgrades, or select a bundle of upgrades for $99. The upgrade bundle includes:

  • Domain name and mapping. This is something I want and can get for $18.
  • An extra 10GB of space. The site already comes with 3GB. This is sufficient space for my site, as I won’t be uploading audio, video or many photos. I could always pay $20 to add the space later if my needs change.
  • No ads. I can opt to pay $30 per year for this upgrade. WordPress promises that ads will appear on only a very small percentage of page views. However, I wouldn’t want the wrong ads to appear on my small business site.
  • Custom Design. This $30 feature seems unnecessary, as I like the look of a simple WordPress site. I’ve built sites with Dreamweaver, html and Frontpage and I know the pain that can come with customizing a site’s design. If I do upgrade, it’ll be so my visited links change colour – surprisingly that’s a custom feature.
  • VideoPress. I don’t need this $60 feature, the one that makes the bundle worth it. You need VideoPress to add video to basic WordPress sites. Otherwise, you have to link to video elsewhere, or use free software that doesn’t work on all servers.

Selecting a Themefresh-and-clean-288x180

I finish signing up, opting not to bundle. I open a new window to browse through the 200 or so themes WordPress offers. I soon narrow my focus to 3 simple designs that would suit my content. I check out user customized versions featured at the bottom of each theme page.

  • I return to WordPress, and go to My Blogs->Blog Admin.
  • I select my preferred themes, one at a time, via Appearance ->Themes. I plug in some content to see how things will look.
  • I decide on the Fresh and Clean theme.

Customizing my Site

I’ve picked a theme and am ready to make the site my own. From the WordPress Admin page:

  • I go to Appearance->Background and opt for a customized colour background. My design choices are limited, saving me time. Time I can spend writing content for my site.
  • I customize my site via the Appearance tab, in no particular order. From Appearance, I modify the Header, leave the Menu alone and make a few small changes to the Widgets.
  • I edit my pages, adding content. While in Edit Page mode, I add photos – my own and from Foter –  to several pages using the Add Media box. This takes me into the Media Library, where I can manage uploaded images; this feature is straightforward and easy to use.

Making a Website, Not a Blog

I want my site to look less like a blog and more like a small business website. You can accomplish this in WordPress by doing several things via your Admin panel:

  1. Go to Pages -> Add New. Name the page ‘Welcome’ and publish it. catching-up-on-e-mail-1_l
  2. Go to Pages -> Add New. Name the page ‘Blog’ and publish it.
  3. Go to Settings -> Reading. Indicate the Front Page will display a static page. Select ‘Welcome’ as your front page.  Select Blog as your posts page.
  4. Use step 1 to create other new pages. Along with a Home page, I added About Me, Rates, Contact, and Blog. I reviewed similar businesses sites before settling on this layout. By the way, you can work in draft mode to keep your content hidden until you’re ready to publish. Watch out for WordPress’ unreliable spellchecker.
  5. Remove comments on all of the static pages. To do this, go to Pages->All Pages, and hover over a page title to select Quick Edit. Uncheck comments.
  6. In Quick Edit, you can set the order that your pages will appear in the menu. Just type the number in the Order box (i.e. Welcome 1, About me 2, and so on).
  7. From Quick Edit, you can select the full width page template or default template. I used the latter on the Blog page, so users can access other blog posts via the sidebar menu. Most of my static pages are built with the first template.

There you have it – my new website. WordPress really was easy to use. Next I’ll need to optimize.

What did you do differently to get your WordPress site up and running?

Photo credits: 1. Peregrino Will Reign / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA  3. Ed Yourdon / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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8 thoughts on “How to make an awesome small business website with WordPress

  1. very helpful indeed, ….. this is a must lesson for a newbie to set up a pretty good website before starting to blog officially, can you please write on WordPress.org features for customizing the site looks with image and video uploads? Thanks in advance.

  2. Pingback: How to make your website look good « Elina Hill

  3. Thank you for your input. This is great. Explains so much and really helps me to start out. I, too, am thinking WordPress.com as it seems to offer more and it doesn’t expect me to know anything. Thanks much.

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